By Andrea K. Walker
The Baltimore Sun
American Heart Association Johns Hopkins Hospital Sinai Hospital in Baltimore Apple iPad
Inner Harbor ice rink opens early for young girl recovering from heart transplant.
Ice skating offers an opportunity for one Pikesville girl to heal her heart.
Sarah Weiskind skated tentatively at first, sticking close to the wall, gripping her father’s hand tightly.
But soon she zipped through the middle of the rink at McKeldin Square at Pratt and Light streets in downtown Baltimore, her gray knit hat with the pink flower bobbing through the air.
The rink opened an hour early Sunday for a private skating session for the 11-year-old Weiskind and her family. Weeks earlier she was confined to the children’s intensive care unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital as a mechanical pump kept her heart going.
Sarah Weiskind, of Pikesville, right, who received her heart transplant on Dec. 17, has fun on the ice with one of her aunts, Rena Urszuy.
Sarah Weiskind, 11, of Pikesville, received her heart transplant on Dec. 17 and is hoping to return to school in March or April.
It was one of the few public outings Weiskind has embarked on since getting a life-saving heart transplant last month, on the same day the family celebrated the first day of Hanukkah.
Weiskind is still recovering from the transplant and can’t be around large groups of people, because of the risk of infection. There were no crowds during the family’s private outing.
“When a little girl wants to skate and is sick with a heart issue, it is not a problem to open a little earlier,” said rink manager Melissa Davis.
Weiskind couldn’t have been happier.
“I am having so much fun,” she squealed gleefully while skating with two aunts.
Weiskind’s ordeal started over the summer when she became gravely ill. Extreme fatigue consumed her and she couldn’t eat. She looked gaunt and sickly, said her mother, Rachel Weiskind.
“She was a healthy kid until then,” Weiskind said. “We couldn’t figure out what was wrong.”
The downtown Baltimore ice rink brings skating back downtown after a 12-year absence. The ice rink at Rash Field used to draw 30,000 to 45,000 people each season before closing in 2002.
Doctors tried antibiotics and other treatments, but her condition didn’t improve after nearly two weeks. Finally, during a visit to Sinai Hospital, doctors said they were sending her by ambulance to Johns Hopkins for specialized care.
Hopkins doctors diagnosed Weiskind with cardiomyopathy, a rare condition that affects one in every 100,000 children in the U.S., according to the Pediatric Cardiomyopathy Registry. The disease is caused by abnormal muscle fibers in the heart that contract with each beat, according to the American Heart Association. Sometimes, the muscles are genetically weaker, but other times infections or low blood flow can cause the weakening.